Readers of National Geographic Magazine were treated this month to an interesting article titled Unplugging the Selfie Generation, about the challenges and rewards of getting young people into our National Parks – what does “back to nature” mean to a generation reportedly more interested in technology than in backcountry hikes. Upslope Brewing Co., as the name implies a craft brewery based in Boulder, Colorado, may have stumbled (pun intended) on one way to lure people to the wilds – throw a beer party! As reported in the Denver Post, Upslope Brewing drew about 2,000 thirsty hikers to a backcountry hut near Leadville where it hosted its second annual “backcountry tap room.” The line for a free beer at the privately owned Vance’s Cabin stretched half a mile over White River National Forest trails and the crowd, mostly younger visitors, cheerfully waited for an hour sipping beer and generally having a great time (dogs included of course – this is Colorado!). As described by the Denver Post – “a quintessential contemporary Colorado scene.”
The fun was made possible in part by the Forest Service’s recent revisions to its recreation permit process, intended to encourage access to public lands. Under the new process, special-use permit applications are streamlined, making it simpler and faster to obtain permits, staff capacity is being increased to handle the applications, the permit process is being standardized across the country and local Forest Service managers are encouraged to waive the permit requirements altogether when a proposed use would have only a nominal impact. In the case of the backcountry beer bash, it took Upslope Brewing only a couple of days to apply for and obtain a one-time special use permit when it became apparent that the hikers would traverse Forest Service land to make it to the party.
The changes to the permitting process are intended to make it easier for outfitters, guides, schools, non-profits and others to take groups out to enjoy outdoor activities on public lands, increasing the potential for access for all. Given that outdoor recreation on public lands contributes $13 billion to the national economy and supports over 200,000 jobs, predominantly in rural communities, increased access is welcome – and even more so when beer is involved!